Michael Fergusson and Paul Prescod founded Ayogo, which designs games using lessons from gaming psychology.
“Games and play are a fundamental part of what makes us human.”
Ayogo is the Vancouver based brainchild of Michael Fergusson and his business partner Paul Prescod. Drawing upon the power of game psychology, they make social games that do things like teach diabetic kids to take care of their health, or improve the job performance of sales people.
They use the rewards of games to get people to behave differently in the non-game world. For instance, in normal life, if a child takes a pill on time, they receive no reward. But if that behavior is tied to a reward in a game, a child is much more likely to take her medicine. A popular Ayogo game called Monster Manor helps children with diabetes using this insight. “If a child has done a good thing, something good should happen to the child,” says Fergusson. In the game, when a child reports her blood sugar or takes her medicine on time, she is given a reward in the form of virtual currency. She can then collect ingredients to build and care for little monsters. “We like the metaphor because for kids, diabetes is kind of like a monster," he says, adding "it makes bad things happen to you that you don’t understand.”
As a game designer "you are actually manipulating this person’s brain chemistry," says Fergusson, "and that is an enormous responsibility." It's up to the designer to make sure a gamer "uses the time constructively." Increasingly, that time doesn't just belong to kids. "We’re building applications specifically geared towards women in their 40s and 50s, others for college," says Fergusson. So far, thousands of people are playing Ayogo's games, and they'll continue to, as long as designers keep up their end of the bargain. "A lot of opportunities are missed to do good inside the game environment," says Fergusson.